It was two-for-Texas time this week with two remarkable political developments starring a pair of leading Hispanics in that state.
First, Democratic leaders picked Julian Castro, the youngish mayor of San Antonio, to deliver the keynote address as their party’s national convention in Charlotte next month. This was the type of sudden exposure that promoted a young Illinois state legislator to national attention just eight years ago. A Daily Beast headline this week posed this question: “Is Democratic Convention Keynote Speaker Julian Castro the Next Obama?”
Then Republican voters handed a surprise victory in their run-off for a US Senate nod to the youngish Ted Cruz, a Tea Party favorite who bested the pick of the state’s establishment, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Cruz appears headed to an easy win in November in the very red state and, like Sen. Marco Rubio, will be touted as the bright hope for the GOP, especially in winning back Hispanics, and a certain contender for president in the very near future.
Cruz has, by far, earned the most ink this week, but two of the leading media memes surrounding him each have holes. Nearly every reporter within the smart set in DC labeled his win a sign of the Tea Party’s growing power, even as journos in Texas pointed out that Tea Partiers lost several other key races in the state on the same day. Also there was the matter of former Tea Party darling Rick Perry backing his opponent.
Plus: Cruz may have had the backing of the hard righ,t but his platform varied little from Dewhurst’s and, in fact, he is about as establishment as they come, with his Harvard degree, positions in the Bush administration and appearances before the US Supreme Court, often arguing on behalf of big business.
The other media meme held that Cruz would now become (as the New York Times put it) the “intellectual” head of the Tea Party caucus in Washington. Now one could acknowledge: that’s not saying much. But still, despite his brains, few mainstream reporters apointed out that this “intellectual” was nearly as wacky as the other rightwingers (good roundup here). Just one example: his embrace (just recently) of a conspiracy theory that holds that the United Nations, in league with George Soros, is plotting a takeover of golf courses and other green spaces. Or something like that. He’s also one of those claiming Sharia law is about to take root in the United States.
Cruz’s father, by the way, came from Cuba—he fought with Castro then turned against him when he realized he was “a Communist”—but there are no holes in his narrative, one problem Marco Rubio has faced. However, there’s this fun fact: Ted was born in Canada. So future Democratic "birthers" might have some fun with the constitutional issues that could arise in a Cruz run for the White House (it didn’t stop McCain, was born in Panama).